Police are reportedly set to recommend Likud MK David Bitan be charged with bribery over suspicions he took money in exchange for political favors as a deputy mayor and Knesset member.
Investigators at the Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit believe they have sufficient evidence to accuse the former coalition chairman of bribery, fraud and breach of trust as well as money laundering, according to reports in several Hebrew-language outlets Tuesday evening.
The reports did not cite a source for the information.
The Ynet news website reported that the probe will be wrapped up before the April 9 election, in which Bitan is running as a Likud candidate. He is currently placed at number 24 on the party’s Knesset slate and according to polling is very likely to win a seat in the legislature.
Bitan has been questioned 13 times over suspicions he accepted hundreds of thousands of shekels in bribes, some of them after becoming a member of the Knesset.
Bitan allegedly took the money in exchange for various political favors and for pushing the business interests of those paying him off.
Bitan, a key ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, stepped down from his role as coalition whip in 2017 after police announced they were investigating him. He has remained in the Knesset as a Likud lawmaker.
He is suspected of receiving the money both while serving as deputy mayor of Rishon Lezion, Israel’s fourth-largest city, and, later as a member of Knesset, from his business associate Moshe Yosef and from businessman Dror Glazer, who have both testified against him.
Investigators reportedly hold specific information on how the suspected bribes and money transfers were handled, in light of the testimony from Yosef, who owns a furniture store where police suspect the bribes were given to Bitan.
Bitan was confronted with Yosef’s testimony during an interrogation early last year. In a major development, Yosef reportedly gave a detailed account, telling investigators that the bribes were frequent, including in the past five years. Yosef told investigators that he had delivered hundreds of thousands of shekels to Bitan during visits the Likud lawmaker made to Yosef’s store, called Metzada.
The investigation, dubbed Case 1803, has seen the arrests of a number of suspects, including former Rishon Lezion mayor Dov Zur, city officials, local businessmen, and organized crime figures.
Bitan has denied any wrongdoing.